Source: Public Citizen
Current Talks Favor Corporations, Exclude Public Interest
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Planned trade negotiations between the United States and the European Union should exclude any provisions related to patents, copyright, trademarks, data protection, geographical indications or other forms of so-called “intellectual property” (IP), a transatlantic coalition of 45 consumer, public health and Internet freedom groups said today in a civil society declaration.
The groups, many of which helped organize mass demonstrations and online protests last year that led to the collapse of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement in Europe and the Stop Online Piracy Act in the U.S., warned that such provisions could limit free speech, constrain access to educational materials such as textbooks and academic journals, and, in the case of medicines, raise health care costs and contribute to preventable suffering and death.
In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama announced plans to negotiate a transatlantic free trade agreement (TAFTA), also referred to as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
“Past trade agreements negotiated by the U.S. and EU have significantly increased the privileges of multinational corporations to exclude competitors, expand monopoly power and control the rules of the information economy,” said Peter Maybarduk, Global Access to Medicines program director at Public Citizen.
Important rules governing technology, health and culture should be debated in the U.S. Congress, the European Parliament, national parliaments and other transparent forums where all stakeholders can be heard, not in closed negotiations that give privileged access to corporate insiders, the groups said. Unless intellectual property is excluded from these talks, the outcome will be an agreement that inflicts the worst of both regimes’ rules, they said.
The U.S. also is negotiating a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement intended to eventually incorporate most members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Taken together, the TPP and TAFTA could represent an effort to lock out the BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – from global rulemaking on technology and information economics. The BRICS countries have challenged U.S. and EU efforts to expand patent-based pharmaceutical monopolies and copyright controls at international forums.
“TAFTA will be a game changer in the IP debate because American and European politicians are keen on shaping globalization and setting IP rules for the 21st century outside the official global forums, said Burcu Kilic, legal counsel for the Global Access to Medicines Program at Public Citizen. “BRICS are seeking development while EU and U.S. industries are pushing a conflicting agenda.”
The groups warned policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic that any attempt to augment patent or copyright rules in favor of right holders and against consumer interests would be a major mistake and would encounter strong public resistance.